Tuesday, August 7, 2012

iLe@rn with Mobile Devices - iPad 2 - Module 4

So I'm back on my iPad2 for this blog post for no reason except that I'm too comfy on the lounge to go to my computer bag and retrieve the iPad3.

I enjoyed Module 4 of the course, not so much because I learned something new, but more that I've been reminded of how useful and easy to use the iPad is for education. The ability to synch using Dropbox and Google Drive is a powerful tool that streamlines my workflow and saves time. And I am all for anything that can create more hours in the day! I have been using dropbox for a while now and am just starting to use Google Drive, which I am finding works intuitively with Google Apps. I haven't had the chance to have students use Google Drive yet as I'm not in the classroom at the moment, but I suspect they will love it and how well it works.

As for annotating PDFs this is some thing I have also been doing for quite some time and prefer to use Good Reader and nei annotate. I find this process especially useful when marking artworks. I don't write on the artworks for obvious reasons but instead make a digital copy of the works and then annotate the works with feedback. I love being able to write on and highlight specific areas on art works and find students more likely to read and respond to feedback that is provided in this way.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

iLe@rn with Mobile Devices - iPad3 - Module 3

Before I get into the details of this blog post you may have noticed that the title looks different than my previous entries. Yes? No? Here's a hint - the numbers are different. Not just on the number of the module, but on the iPad as well. I have managed to get my hands on an iPad three, not permanently, unfortunately. I am already addicted to the clearer retina display and the better quality camera. The differences end there for me at the moment (until I have more time to play) unless you also include the longer battery life, but I suspect that has more to do with the age of the two iPads. Another interesting note is that the Chrome browser on the iPad is unable to download the course materials into iBooks.

The iLe@rn App Framework

For the purpose of this post I have been investigating the iLe@rn App Framework and how it can be used to help select and evaluate Apps for learning.

Of course there are many apps out there but not all of them are engaging and / or encourage higher order thinking. One area in particular I know my students could improve on is in their reflective skills. I teach Visual Arts as well as Information and Software technology and Multimedia, all subjects which lend themselves to project based work and require students to reflect on what they and others have done and achieved. I require all students in these subjects to keep blogs or digital journals and this fits in perfectly with the Reflective Skills section of the iLe@rn App Framework.

I have seen an improvement in students' communication skills by moving to using Google Sites to record the progress of their work but they still struggle with writing reflective statements. I am going to trial using the iMovie App, the camera and voice record on the iPad to allow students to respond in a form other than writing.

For my own teaching I love using neu.annotate+ to write on student work to provide formative feedback. I am able to take a photo of a student's art work or project and add typed and hand written notes as well as use shapes and symbols to annotate and provide feedback and suggestions. Where I would like to go to now is have students do the same on their own work and that of others. Many of the boys I teach are forever looking for new ways to use technology so the plan is to engage students with the device and Apps and they will improve their learning despite themselves.

The activity in Module 3 that I spent the most time working through and gained the most from was the section linking apps to the sections of the iLe@arn Apps Framework. I have come to the conclusion that there are some aspects of learning that some students will always rebel against. A major area of contention, especially with boys is reflection and yet it needs to be done to cement learning and improve. Mobile devices and Apps by their nature engage those reluctant learners and while sometimes the apps may not tick all the boxes in the evaluation scaffolds, they at least start the ball rolling.  

Evaluating Apps

The video below shows an app that was made by one of my Year 10 IST student a few years ago. It's not world breaking but the aim was for him to learn how to use X-Code and he was very proud of what was achieved. It would have been really handy for Paul to have had access to an App Evaluation scaffold like  Kathleen Shrock's CRITICAL EVALUATION OF AN IPAD/IPOD APP  to help him build the concept, before even beginning the build.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

iLe@rn with Mobile Devices - iPad 2 - Module 2

The second module has been all about learning how to use Safari and looking at some of the built in Apps. Much of the information about Safari I was already familiar with since it is the built in App that I have used the most over the past year. I also share my iPad with family (at little as possible I might add) so have had to set up bookmarks as the pages in Safari are rarely the same when I return to the iPad. One thing I did learn was turning on private browsing, I was unaware that the default setting is to 'Off'.

Other settings I changed were for the Twitter App. It is now a lot easier to send a tweet using the drop down menu in Safari. A colleague @jonesnatalie told me quite a while about the ability to tweet direct from photos but I have been too busy, or lazy, or forgetful to set it up.

It now is.

Another task that was part of Module 2 was to read the iPad manual. There is a section on taking photos and videos, how to edit, where they are located and how to share them between devices. One of the subjects I teach is Visual Arts and for all year groups there's a Blog Assessment task. When students are in the thick of art making they tend to not have as much time and/or opportunity to take photos of the progress of their work to include in their blog. I have in past used the iPad to take photos and videos of their work, downloaded these to my computer and then uploaded to a Google Site they could all access. Although it makes total sense I had not thought about emailing the files directly to students from the iPad.

I will be doing so from now on.

Oh, and the other thing is I am now using an iPad 3 to complete this course and would like to share that ePubs do not work in Chrome, I have had to use Safari to download the course modules. There are a few things that don't work the way they should in Chrome so I assume it the software at fault.

Monday, July 2, 2012

iLe@rn with Mobile Devices - iPad 2 - Module 1

I have registered for a course that is run by The Sydney Catholic Education Office to learn more about my iPad. The Course Introduction states its purpose as being 'intended to support teachers to become familiar with the iPad as an effective tool for learning and to apply the iLE@RN model to mobile learning opportunities' . I have had my iPad for over a year and registered for the course mainly because I am my school's eLearning Coordinator and in the past have found it easier to support staff when I have completed the same courses. And as usual, there are quite a few staff at the College registered for the iLe@rn with Mobile Devices course; they are amazingly technology keen!

However, after completing just the first module I have found some new functions that I was not aware of before, although I have seen my two year old daughter working them out! The main area that interested me in Module 1 were the activities about iBooks.

I'm an avid reader of the Crime and Thriller genre and have been pleased to find that most of my favourite authors like John Connolly, Mo Hayder, Brian Freeman and Ian Rankin have published ebooks. I now prefer (when I get the chance, which is not very often) reading books on the iPad rather than hard copies and one tool I have discovered through Module 1 is using collections to keep my eBooks and PDFs better organised. I use my own iPad in class and being able to place texts for students in a  collection specifically made for them helps to keep my personal life at a distance from work.

Another handy tip I have picked up is using the 'Define' option in iBooks and today it helped me to find out that Scouser is a noun for a person from Liverpool. It is handy to have this function within that app and for students using iBooks it would help them to stay on task by not having to exit the app to find a definition. It was so very quick, easy and helpful.

I also really like the function of being able to add and edit notes. I often use Stickies on my computer and Post it Notes in real life. They are handy for providing context and could also be used to provide students with guidance on what they should 'do' with the selected text. Perhaps they could be guided to an activity to be completed or simply to posed a hypothetical question or situation to ponder with the aim of helping students to engage at a deeper level with the text.

Although I already know how to take photos and video taking screen shots is something new. I can see a use for students to use screen shots to record the progress of their work in many different subjects including TAS. Design portfolios are an important aspect of assessment and many students struggle with the idea of documenting. Using mobile technology is quick, easy, and engaging and may be the key to assisting struggling students record progress and processes.

Screen shot of the Blogger App I used to make some parts of this post.

My two children aged 5 and 3 love the iPad and each have their favourite apps that they are often using. I was unaware until recently that apps need to be closed and was surprised to find over 25 apps open. I have notice a bit of  lag with the iPad lately and now know why! With many of the apps closed the iPad is running like new, much to my chagrin as I was thinking it could be a good excuse for an iPad 3... oh well...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CEO SR Teachmeet

I am excited about doing a seven minute presentation at the Sydney Teachmeet that has been organised by the CEO Southern Region eLearning Adviser Simon Crook. I love the idea of teachers sharing what they are doing and am looking forward to the two and seven minute micro-presentations. I have already found some new people to follow on Twitter and the backchat on #ceoelearn and #ceotm I will be just as interesting as the presentations.

Teachmeets are 'unconferences' that began in Scotland in 1995 and have become a world wide phenomenon. There are no hard or fast rules but like anything need to have some organisation and thanks to @simoncrook, @jpilearn @artprintmedia and @pvlies, it was very well organised.

I will be presenting for seven minutes about using Game Based Learning to improve student use  of the Design Process in Information Software Technology (IST). The idea developed because I am not a tech-head, I don't believe I know more about technology than the average teacher; I can't know everything. The key to success however, is that I accept this and don't allow it to stop my students. My role as a teacher hasn't changed even though the tools have.

I saw Ian Jukes from 21st Century Fluency Project  present at the Technology in K-12 Education National Congress in Sydney and it reinforced for me that use of the design process is a vital aspect of being a digital citizen, what Ian Jukes calls the Fluencies.

But where I started however was earlier than this at an eLearning Coordinators meeting where Dean Groom presented a Keynote. He started me thinking that GBL didn't just have to be a one off or a small series of lessons like I had done previously (such as using the UN Free Rice in HSIE classes). Using Twitter I then came across an article about a school in New York that had initiated GBL to teach the process of game design and were seeing fantastic results in student engagement and achievement in all classes.

Again using Twitter I asked about online gaming platforms that could be used in class and from the responses decided upon using Gamestar Mechanic because:
  • there is a free version (there is a paid version if you want or need more control over student accounts)
  • no software to download
  • works with the College Internet connection
  • students' and my account could be linked
  • opportunity for online discussion
  • easy to use
  • curriculum materials available

Term 4 2010 with Year 9 IST was the best experience I have had with a class in term 4. The students were engaged, they completed all the set work, even the 'theory' which was based on Games for Change and game design. There was a new atmosphere of respect for peers, they were playing each others' games and marvelling at and commenting on what was being achieved.

One of the better moments for me was having Year 5 students from local schools visiting for a 'Curriculum Sampler' day and 10 Year 9s volunteered to help. They ran the Year 5s through the design process and helped them make and play games. They were brilliant! Their success with the younger students is evidence that they themselves understand the Design Process and see its value in helping produce solutions.

This year has provided more evidence that the class are immersed in the Design Process rather than just paying lip service like before. We are using Google Sites to complete portfolios that document the Design Process and this is working really well, even with students that struggled last year. Student engagement in class and work ethic has also improved as has the quality of work that is being produced.

Game Based Learning is engaging and it produces results.

The video below is my presentation materials for the Teachmeet in Sydney on May 26 2011.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Cloud in the Hand

While this blog started as a chronicle of my schools use of the cloud it has become obvious that this is too limited. It does the College and my colleagues as well as me an injustice. The cloud is really just a tool and for my reflections to be of any use to the brilliant teachers, support and admin staff I work with I have realised that I need to be a lot more broad.

Use of Google Apps has exploded at the College and I only need to look at the Sites Dashboard to see how many KLAs are making use if the technology. I am also extremely greatful that teachers who decide to make their Sites and Docs private are including me in their list...THANK YOU!

There are many staff at the College that have taken advantage of our employer's salary sacrifice scheme to purchase an iPad 2 and others that are using various self-owned mobile devices in the classrooom and for admin purposes. Hence my rethink that this blog is too narrow.

As part of my role as eLearning Coordinator at the College as well as my innate need to shout things from the roof top I have decided to also use the blog to spread the news about other mobile bits and pieces I find useful, including Apps. In keeping with this, my first post about mobile learning is targeted towards my colleagues who are searching for Apps to use at school.

I have three pieces of advice to get you started:

1. Use Twitter - there are some great people as well as hashtags (#) to follow. Checkout #slidetolearn, #mobilelearning, #IEAR, #EDAPP and #mlearning as a start and use this to also find people like @ShellTerrell, @ipodsibilities and @SNewco.

2. Frequent the site www.iear.org - an educational Apps review website. I have found many excellent resources here.

3. Use the Apps Store in iTunes - in the iTunes Store click on the Apps Store drop down menu and choose Education and browse.

 I can't wait 'till my iPad 2 arrives!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How the Cloud Came Rolling in

The development of the web has no doubt placed more technology and information directly in the hands of individuals.The barriers to technological innovation keep lowering, and individuals need to turn less often to professional IT groups to help them develop solutions. Research labs, individual faculty, and staff have access to comparatively powerful technology tools that enable them to innovate.
Goldstein (2009)

I have been using the Cloud without even knowing, but mainly socially. It is only since the beginning of this year that I have really seen the use for education, and its not that I don't use technology, I just didn't know how much was out there.

A colleague approached me near the end of 2009 to ask advice about using Google Docs with her Science class and I had to admit, as the 'go to' technology help person, I couldn't help. Two babies in the space of two years had taken me away from the web2 changes, lucky for me (and my classes) I don't like not knowing, or at the very least knowing about,  and so began to investigate. One thing led to another and my school is now running a Sydney CEO pilot school for using Google Apps.

Not everyone is on board yet and I'm a little bit ashamed to admit that I am using the model of 'lay the table and they will come', but then, at the start of 2010 I was a Year Coordinator and have only recently become eLearning Coordinator. While my colleagues have always trusted me with their technology questions, being the pusher of cloud computing was outside my area of responsibility and I didn't want to step on any toes.

It is now half way through the school year and we have 320 Google Apps users out of a possible 480 (or so) College members. Use of Google Apps by a few teachers has encouraged many others to be interested, want to know what it is all about and to get involved. In September we are having a Professional Development Day that is dedicated to using technology in education for differentiation. The first session will be an introduction to Google Apps and will present what it can be used for as well as showcase how some KLAs are already using cloud computing, especially for differentiating the teaching and learning experience.

The second part if the day will be much more exciting as staff will have the opportunity to be hands on with their exploration, use, and implementation of everything the cloud.

My own experience, I feel, is limited, but I am willing to explore...like the students in my classes.

Goldstein, P (2009), The Tower, the Cloud, and the IT leader and workforce, in Katz, R (ed) (2009), The Tower and the Cloud: Higher Education in the Age of Cloud Computing, Educause http://www.educause.edu/thetowerandthecloud 

Powell, J, Cloud computing – what is it and what does it mean for